The Gems of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato

Monday, August 21, 2017

lake seloton south cotababto

This is the seventh installment of the Spread the Impact series -- a collection of travel narratives and guides to less-traveled places in the Philippines, with the aim to spread human impact to the environment as well as uplift the lives of communities through tourism.
The dream of traveling to Mindanao is one that many from Luzon and Visayas share. Tales of unrivaled natural beauty is heard over stories of conflict. Indeed, Mindanao has long been beleaguered but there's no denying that beneath this clout of discord, the country's southernmost parts are some of the most beautiful.

The province of South Cotabato, like the rest of Mindanao, is no stranger to gun fights and military encounters, but this progressive province is perhaps the safest place to explore. Lake Sebu, one of its 10 municipalities, is a hotpot of indigenous culture. The T'boli, Tiruray, Ubo, and Manabo all call Lake Sebu's lush forests home.

In fact, the town shares its name with the largest of the T'boli's three sacred lakes. Lake Seloton, and Lake Lahit being the other two. Furthermore, a large section of the town's land (924.5 square kilometers to be exact) is declared as a protected landscape.

Witness a Glorious Sunrise
Lake Sebu is home to some of Nature's most stunning spectacles. One of the town's three lakes, Lake Seloton, not only serves as a traditional fishing ground but also as one of the sacred places of the T'boli.

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Begin your day by heading to the banks of Lake Seloton just before the crack of dawn. Watch fog dance across the surface of the placid lake. As the sun rises, see how the water turns purple-pink, and how everything – from the mountains to the ground you're on – is bathed in soft, warm light.

Go on the Highest Zipline in Southeast Asia
A pair of zipline rigs, approximately 180 meters above ground, is perched across Lake Sebu's forests and waterways. This contraption in the 7 Falls Eco-Park is hailed as the tallest in Southeast Asia.
things to do in lake sebu

The view as you zoom your way across features a verdant sea split by a serpentine estuary. If you're lucky, you might even see a rainbow forming from the spray of one of the waterfalls. Speaking of waterfalls...

Brave the Path of the Seven Waterfalls
The eco-park in which the tallest zipline is located also hosts the famous 7 Waterfalls of Lake SebuHikong Alo, the first cascade, is easily accessible from the entrance of the park. This falls, whose name is translated to "Passage", is measured at 35 feet. Hikong Bente ("immeasurable"), the second falls is accessed by the paved trail a few steps from the entrance.

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To take you to the rest of the seven waterfalls (Hikong B'Lebel or "Coil/Zigzag"; Hikong Lowig or "Booth"; Hikong Ukol or "Wild Flower"; Hikong K'Fo-I or "Short"; and Hikong Tonok or "Soil") can be reached via rugged hike, if weather is permitting.

Related Adventure: Beginner-friendly Places for your Mindanao Trip

Sing and Dance with the T'boli
In Punta Isla Resort, you can watch members of the T'boli tribe perform traditional dances and demonstrated indigenous musical instruments. Hear the distinct sounds of the kumbing  – an instrument used to "call" the moonlight during an eclipse – and the lonely notes of the seloli, as well as the flirtatious courtship dance of madal semguwit.
seloli musical instrument

madal semguwit

On top of having a glimpse of the T'boli's rich culture, you can also replenish your energy here at Punta Isla Resort. They serve traditional cuisine usually starring the abundant tilapia.

Learn the Secrets of the 'Dreamweavers'
South Cotabato is mostly known as the Land of the Dreamweavers. These artists, so called because they dream the patterns they create, are the makers of the prized T'boli abaca fabric called "T'nalak". This tradition is being proudly carried on in the Lang Dulay Weaving Center and T'nalak House in Sitio T'bongThe center, started by the late "Great Lady" Lang Dulay, is now ran by her family and successors, most notably by her best-friend, daughter-in-law, and protege 70-year old Sebulan.
dreamweaver t'boli

smaki t'nalak

Discover the rigorous steps – all 32 of them – in making a T'nalak. From the plants and implements used to the unique designs of the fabric, the story of the Dreamweavers is one you should definitely include in your itinerary.

Related Adventure: I Cry Like She's Family

Have a Tilapia Feast
The waters of Lake Sebu is abundant with tilapia. Dishes like sinanglay, and sinigang sa pakwan, are some that features the fish as the main ingredient. The crispy tilapia is also a popular alternative to the sinful crispy pata.
traditional t'boli dish

traditional t'boli food

These dishes are often served in many restaurants all over town. But if you're looking for a scenic dining space, Punta Isla Resort on the banks of Lake Sebu or Sunrise Garden on Lake Seloton are both great choices.

Deck Yourself with Brass
Another craft the T'boli is famous for is brass- and bead-work. In Sitio T'bong, high-quality brass, and beaded jewelry such as rings, bangles, and belts are for sale. Prices range from Php150 to Php1000.
t'boli souvenirs

t'boli costume

There are also cheaper, albeit inferior, ones sold in the souvenir shops around 7 Falls Eco-Park. These are still made from pure brass but the design is noticeably less refined. 
Take a Piece of a Dream Home
What better souvenir from Lake Sebu than a T'nalak fabric? You can purchase good-quality pieces at a lower price from the Lang Dulay Weaving Center and T'nalak House.
t'nalak where to buy

Those made by the master weaver Lang Dulay have all been purchased by the National Musem, but intricate and flawless pieces by her protege Sebulan are available for as low as Php1,200 per meter. Other designs made by the students of the center start at Php700 per meter.

(Fares are as of February 2017, and are per pax unless otherwise stated)
The nearest airport to South Cotabato is in General Santos. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have regular flights to here from Manila and Cebu. Once in General Santos, head to the Bulaong Terminal. In the terminal, take a bus bound for Marbel (Php110, YBL Executive Nonstop Bus). Once in the terminal in Marbel, get on a bus bound for Surallah (Php31). Take a van from the Surallah Public Terminal going to Lake Sebu (Php40). Take note that vans are available only up to 5:30PM. In the case that you get here later than that, you may take a tricycle (Php10) to the "Skylab" Terminal in Talisay where you can hire a habal-habal (Php70). Once in the van terminal in Lake Sebu, there are habal-habal you can rent (Php1,000, good for two) to take you to your desired destinations.

If, by chance, you're planning to come from North Cotabato (Asik-asik Falls, perhaps) and drop by the Grand Mosque in Cotabato City, and the Pink Mosque in Maguindanao, you can reach Lake Sebu via the following route: In the high-way near the Pink Mosque, there are vans and buses that pass by. Hail a van and ask if it will pass by the "Junction" (Php80). Alight at the Junction. Once here, walk straight to the Isulan Van Terminal. There are vans bound to Surallah (Php50) as well as to other nearby towns.

Related Adventure: DIY Guide to Asik-asik Falls

*assuming  you stayed the night at Sunrise Garden
04:00 to 07:30 - Sunrise-watching over at Lake Seloton
07:30 to 08:00 - Breakfast at Sunrise Garden
08:00 to 08:20 - Travel to 7 Falls Eco-park
08:20 to 09:00 - Zipline
09:00 to 10:00 - Trek to Hikong Alo and Hikong Bente
10:00 to 10:30 - Rest
10:30 to 10:45 - Travel to Punta Isla Resort
10:45 to 13:00 - Lunch + T'boli Cultural Performance
13:00 to 13:20 - Travel to Lang Dulay Weaving Center and T'nalak House
13:20 to 15:30 - Learn about the T'nalak
15:30 to 16;00 - Back to Lake Sebu Van Terminal

(Per pax, unless otherwise stated and as of February 2017)
Habal-habal Rent - Php1000, good for two for whole day
Breakfast at Sunrise Garden - Php120 to Php 250 / dish, each serving is good for 3-4 persons
Lunch at Punta Isla Resort - Php200 to Php350 / dish. each serving is good for 3-4 persons
Entrance Fee 7 Falls Eco-Park - Adult Php20; Senior Citizen Php15; Student with ID Php10; Children Php5
Parking Fee 7 Falls Eco-Park - Php30 6-wheel; Php20 4-wheel; Php10 2-wheel
Zipline - Weekdays P250, Weekends and Holidays P300
Lang Dulay Weaving Center and T'nalak House - Donation only

Sunrise Garden - For all information, check out my review.

Sitio Outlet, Barangay Lake Seloton, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
+63 936 416 9344

7 Falls Eco-park
Barangay Lake Lahit, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
+65 8 281 1761
Mondays to Sundays; 7AM to 5PM

Punta Isla Resort

Sitio Tokufol, Barangay Poblacion, Sitio Tokufol Road, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
+63 905-289-5134 / 083-236-1053

Lang Dulay Weaving Center and T'nalak House

Sitio T'bong Brgy. Lamdalag, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
+63 926 222 3610 (look for Charlie Dulay or Jeanily Dulay; You can also order T'nalak and full T'boli garb from them)

Kuya Bubong

Habal-habal Driver, Lake Sebu
+63 935 512 5431

What other less-known places should Celineism feature next?

Enjoy traveling to off-the-beaten paths? Check out the rest of the Spread The Impact series

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